How Improving Your Emotional Intelligence Makes You a Better Leader

It is not uncommon to hear Situational Leadership® referred to as “organized common sense.” As a matter of fact, that is how our founder, Dr. Paul Hersey, used to describe it himself. The Situational Leadership® Model, which he dedicated the majority of his career to developing and refining, reduces the overwhelming number of leadership considerations into three commonsense questions:

  1. What is the task?
  2. What is the task-specific ability and willingness of the person performing it?
  3. What leadership style should I employ?

But, as leadership gurus from Peter Drucker to Marshall Goldsmith have observed, the primary problem with common sense is that it is anything but common! And, in that regard, it allows us to offer a blinding flash of the obvious:

Understanding Situational Leadership® is a different thing altogether than applying it on a consistent and effective basis. It’s sort of like receiving a passing grade in a chemistry class — by no means does that make you a chemist. Attending a workshop on Situational Leadership® doesn’t immediately transform you into a Situational Leader.

So, how do you translate understanding of a leadership model into behavior-based leadership success stories? First and foremost, you use the model as both a planning tool and an “after-action-review-mechanism” every chance you get. As opposed to simply reacting in the moment to leadership opportunities, you thoughtfully leverage the model to guide your actions, then reflect on the degree of success and effectiveness you experienced through the lens of the three steps previously identified (What went well? What could/should you have done differently?).

Another way to accelerate the transformation of understanding into consistent application is to integrate core principles from other training you receive into a personalized leadership rubric. Take Emotional Intelligence as an example. In essence, and at the highest of high levels, effective training in Emotional Intelligence will provide you with insight on your level of self-awareness as well as your awareness of others. In general, the more aware you are of your leadership-related strengths and potential areas for self-development, the higher the probability you will match your leadership approach to the needs of the follower (the aforementioned Step 3). The more aware you are of others the higher the probability you will be able to accurately determine a follower’s level of Performance Readiness® (the aforementioned Step 2).

In more specific terms, consider two important dimensions on the Emotional Intelligence spectrum and their points of integration with Situational Leadership®:

  • Empathy: If a leader lacks empathy, it increases the difficulty associated with effectively participating with employees that have temporarily lost either motivation or commitment to perform (predictable pattern of boredom, burnout or regression). The absence of empathy in these discussions can (and often does) escalate the challenge at hand (i.e. “… looks like people around here could really care less about me and what I happen to be going through at the moment.”)
  • Impulse control: A leader that struggles with impulse control can have a tendency to confuse enthusiasm with expertise. As a result, the leader may pre-maturely delegate a project or an assignment to an excited but inexperienced employee. Ironically, this usually serves to not only jeopardize the outcome of the project, but also to decrease the confidence, commitment and motivation of the employee who volunteered to take it on in the first place (when those results are published and need to be addressed)

These are but a few examples of how improving your Emotional Intelligence can (and will) increase the probability of making you a more effective leader. It’s been our experience that this kind of thoughtful and intentional integrative application can make common sense far more common!


  1. Sign up for an Emotional Intelligence workshop and feedback experience
  2. Upon completion, add two or three “next level points of integration” to your personalized leadership rubric